Mercury Racing 450R: Dawn of a New Outboard Era
Sometimes, even a subtle advancement in technology can change the course of an industry. A simple shift can alter the course of design, and allow new ideas to grow. I think the new Mercury Racing 450R outboard achieves this type of shift change in the performance boating world. At first glance, it’s not obvious, the V8 supercharged outboard isn’t drastically more powerful than the Verado 400R, and it’s not even the most powerful outboard on the market. But, the 450R opens the door for a larger variety of boat designs to adopt the use of outboards. I believe we will see even more growth in the sport cat market, as the 300R and 450R are well suited for those hulls, but I think we will see a new breed of luxury offshore V-hulls taking advantage of the supercharged beast Mercury Racing has created.
As a fan of single engine outboards, you can make the case for the 450R on hulls larger than 25’, but those are few and far between, outside the center console market. Certainly a cat 25’ to 27’ could do well with one. I am definitely not a fan of hooking one up to hulls smaller than that, it’s just too much power. The 250R and 300R are well suited for that market, and besides, I have always been a bigger fan of getting the most out of less power, and safety first. What is great about that much power in one outboard is that twin 450 engines is better than three 300s, and three are better than four. Reducing drag and weight are key in performance on any boat.
At the Miami International Boat Show last year, there were a few outboard V hull offshore boats, namely the Hustler 39’ Shotgun with triple 400Rs and the Adrenaline 45’ Speede with quad 400Rs. The year before, Outerlimits showed off a beautiful SL 41 powered by triple 400Rs and capable of 107 MPH. Donzi has an outboard luxury cruiser, the GT 41. Cigarette Racing doesn’t have a sport boat with outboards yet, but they have a variety of luxury center consoles now to capture the outboard market. If you add catamarans to the mix, the sport cat market continues to grow, and so does the 40 foot and up cat market with outboards, with Wright Performance showing a stunning 42’, and even Donzi trying to get in the market with a large cat.
In the luxury non performance market, it is obvious the trend has been shifting to outboards. Formula boats has been adding outboards to their lineup, and has dropped the Fastech line altogether. Chris Craft, Regal, Sea Ray; basically every boat manufacturer is adding large cruisers and open boats with outboards now. It makes sense, the outboards are easy to operate, easy to maintain, more efficient, faster, and quieter; There really aren’t many disadvantages. Mercury Racing has really cashed in on the center console market, even on boats that probably don’t need the features of the Merc Racing engines, the brand is taking on the cache of an AMG, BMW M, or Audi RS in automotive terms.
Does the 450R change anything? It does. With that much power, you open the door for hardcore offshore boats to adopt them without giving much up on top speed. The light compact design means triples on a narrow beam hull is possible. Moreover, you can run twin 450Rs on anything from a 28’ to a 36’. And even though that market isn’t very price sensitive, the reality is the big outboards are more economical in every way.
One smart thing about the V8 platform is the sound. Something like sound may sound trivial, but the Mercury Racing V8s sound very cool, that isn’t lost on performance boaters. The platform is pretty impressive in a way, sharing the basic architecture with the Mercury 4.6 V8 line, starting at 200 HP, all the way to the new 450R. The 300R has some major differences over the 250R, including cams, midsection and tuning; and the 450R is yet another level of engineering, adding the innovative supercharger, beefier mid section, yet retaining almost the same size.
To think you could have a 450 HP outboard that not only has a 3 year warranty, but can run all day efficiently, and be happy pushing a 10,000 lb center console or a lightweight cat to speeds beyond 130 MPH seems wild. The large displacement 4.6 V8 makes it possible. A twin screw, 2.4 L water cooled supercharger offers boost from 0 to full RPM. Air coolers increase air density, and a bypass valve optimizes the system. The 64 degree 32 valve DOHC V8 revs to 6400 RPM, and idles at 600 RPM. Digital throttle and shift, oh and it runs on 89 octane.
The “advanced mid section” AMS isolates the engine, but is stiff enough to handle the higher speeds the 450R is capable of. An integrated tie bar is a slick design for multi-engine applications. Everything was well thought out by Mercury Racing. The narrow design means 26” center to center mounting with multiple engines. And, you can digitally control up to six engines from one control. Speed control adapts throttle to speed in changing conditions to maintain a set speed. Two gearcases, the Sportmaster and 5.44 HD are available with a 1.60:1 gear ratio. If I keep listing features, this is going to start sounding like TV infomercial from the eighties.
Years from now, offshore sport boats of all sizes will have more outboard models than sterndrives, much of the luxury center console market will convert back to outboard sport boats for comfort, efficiency and driveability. The cat market will continue, they are just too good at what they do. After you drive a twin engine top of the line sport cat, the experience will change you.
The Mercury Racing 450R is the real deal, and will shape the future of performance boating in many ways.